A man convicted of causing the death of a pedestrian in Mellieħa has had his sentence overturned on appeal.
On 9th July 2016, Jonathan Hili struck Andre Debattista, a 40-year-old father of two, with his Toyota Passo as the victim crossed Marfa Road in Mellieħa near Għadira bay. Debattista’s daughter, who was 10-years-old at the time, was present when the car collided with her father.
Debattista died on impact. His daughter was treated for shock following the incident.
Hili and other witnesses had told the court that Hili was driving at around 70km/hr when two people suddenly appeared on the road. Hili tried to avoid impact, missing the girl but hitting Debattista. Hili also testified that there was a large tree on the road – which prevented his view of Debattista.
In December 2020, Hili was sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment, suspended for three years, while his driving licence was suspended for six months.
In her decision that day, Magistrate Grima said that while Hili had been negligent in his driving, there was contributory negligence on the part of the deceased, noting his clean criminal record.
The case went to appeal with Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera presiding. Less than six months after the initial sentencing, Scerri Herrera liberated Hili from his previous conviction.
In her decision, she noted that evidence showed that Hili’s driving was not reckless and deliberate – dismissing claims that his driving was somehow negligent, adding that he was obeying the highway code.
She also noted that the lack of a proper lookout prevented Hili from reacting in time to the sudden appearance of the man and his daughter – adding that Hili was not driving at an excessive speed.
According to testimony from police experts, the road is an accident hotspot – with the investigation sergeant telling the court that they were waiting for a grievous accident to happen on that part of the road. A few days after the accident – pelican lights and a zebra crossing were installed.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Franco Debono represented Hili.
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